Anticipating the Year Ahead

What I love about each New Year is the promise of a fresh start.  A new beginning.  A new calendar, like Cynthia.  I love anticipating what I hope to accomplish in the year ahead.  Planning this out ahead of time really helps me to stay focused on my projects, in spite of all the distractions that vie for my attention.

Last year on the blog I reported that one of my goals for 2015 was to write 150,000 words.  I am happy to report that I actually wrote 199,860 words!  About half of those words are slated for publication—the next Nell Letterly book is coming out in May—and the rest of those words I am chalking up to good practice.  They won’t see the light of publication, and that’s okay.  More practice at writing is a good thing.  I anticipate better growth as a writer in the year ahead as a result of all those extra words.

So, for 2016 my specific goal is to write 200,000 words {gulp!}  I did the math on the approximate word count of the projects I want to do, and that’s the total word count I came up with.  Can I do it?  Sure.  Will I do it?  I have no idea.

If I don’t, that’s okay.  I’m sure I’ll have a good reason (hey, I’m a writer, I can make it up).  But if I don’t make myself stretch my wings by aiming for the stars, then I just won’t.  And that’s not okay.  Growth as a writer is all about anticipating improvement, whatever form that improvement takes.  For me, it’s to become a better storyteller.  I want to learn how to weave riveting plots and create fascinating characters the reader cares deeply about.  I want to grow as a writer by keeping readers up all night reading my books.

I anticipate lots of study this year to help me work on that.  I will be taking a couple of workshops and reading lots of writers to see how they handle storytelling.  Who are some of the best storytellers that you have read that I should study?  All suggestions are welcome!


14 thoughts on “Anticipating the Year Ahead”

  1. I love how Dean Koontz can paint a whole picture with eight words. How he can draw out the tension in a scene even though my heart is racing to finish.

    Tim Hallinan sets me in the middle of Bangkok and I can smell the rain. And I’ve fallen in love with a little girl named Meow.

    As I sit at the gate at DIA, I’m about to begin reading the J.K. Rowling series she writes under Galbraith. I’m pretty sure I’m gonna like it.

    So… writing 200,000 words… when will you have time to read???


  2. Yeah, it’s a lot of words, and I hope some of them will be good words.

    Good question, Peg! And I’m a slow reader, too. Great suggestions, thanks!


  3. Putting a number to your goal is a great idea! This year I plan to finish my fantasy novel, write a few short stories and get my edits in for my mystery novel that will be indie published in the fall. How many words is that? Probably way less than 200k.
    The last several months I have been studying other writers like a madman in an effort to improve my writing. Here are few that I thought opened my eyes a bit in the last year.
    Eleanor Catton’s book The Luminaries is a great historical mystery/crime novel set in the mid-1800’s New Zealand gold fields. Her depiction of the lives of the prospectors and the boom town that supports them is one of the most colorful and interesting history lessons I have ever had.
    Andy Weir’s The Martian is a great example of how to inject humor into grim circumstances.
    I also discovered Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle Book One. As the title suggests there are several in the series, but in the first book Knausgaard bares his soul as he describes very personal family circumstances, describing in brutal detail everything from losing his virginity to losing his father to alcoholism.
    Another is Gillian Flynn’s first novel Sharp Objects. It’s one of those “I wish I had written that” type of books. I can’t put my finger on what I learned from it, but it is a truly great debut.
    Good luck with your goals for the year!


  4. That’s a whole lot of words. Watch you don’t give yourself carpal tunnel! Have you tried dictating? I’m currently a devotee of Adian McKinty, Stuart Neville and John Conolly. For something lighter, Dick Francis.


  5. Well, 200k may sound like a lot, but it only averages out to 547.9 words per day, which is about 2 pages, or maybe one hour per day. The key being consistency, and that’s the hardest task of all!

    Great book suggestions, Francis and Keenan, thanks! I am putting them on my study list.


  6. Best of luck with your writing this year, Sue! 200k is ambitious, but you can totally do it!

    A few of my favorite storytellers are JK Rowling (for both Harry Potter and her Cormoran Strike Mysteries), Patrick Rothfuss (he writes the most epic fantasy series that’s so beautifully written), Andy Weir (the Martian was both suspenseful and humorous), Stephen King (of course), Tasha Alexander for her Lady Emily series (she writes such strong female characters!), and John Green (yes, he writes YA, but I’m a huge advocate for reading all genres for inspiration). Have so much fun with your research!! 🙂


  7. Wow. I was thinking 200k was unattainable, but at 550/day, that’s ridiculously doable. I, too, have a word count for the first time this year and since it’s Jan 13, that means I’m only 13 days behind. Yay, me!

    Storytellers, there are so many. But, three books have stayed with me for a looooong time: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I don’t exactly know why, so maybe you can read them and tell me!


  8. Rock on, Sue. What a fantastic goal and I know you will make it! Page turners, well, Polly Iyer keeps me up late, Hank Ryan, the same. Then there are all the books that do it to me because they are filling some niche in my reading life at that particular time.


  9. You can definitely do 200k! Congrats on last year, too! You did an awesome job. 🙂 I have no clue which storytellers to recommend. So many good ones!


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